People seeking the removal of a controversial statue in San Francisco’s Civic Center that critics say celebrates the subjugation of American Indians have suffered a major setback as the city’s Board of Appeals sided with a Petaluma man opposed to taking it down.

The “Early Days” statue depicts a conquering vaquero and a missionary standing over a fallen and nearly naked Indian man. It’s one of five bronze statues that make up the Pioneer Monument, an 800-ton shrine to the settling of California that sits between between the Main Library and the Asian Art Museum.

The statue, which has been criticized as an offensive celebration of native peoples’ suffering at the hands of European settlers, was slated for removal after the city’s Historic Preservation Commission approved in February a request to take it down. The Arts Commission had previously approved its removal but needed the blessing of the preservation commission because the statue is located in a historic district.

But last month, Frear Stephen Schmid, a Petaluma attorney who said he had lived in San Francisco for decades, challenged the Historic Preservation Commission’s decision. Schmid argued that the decision was inconsistent with the city’s standards for removing or altering historic artifacts.

Schmid, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, previously said that removing the statue from public view was equivalent to blowing it up with dynamite.

The Board of Appeals agreed, ruling Wednesday that the Historic Preservation Commission erred in approving the statue’s removal because removing “Early Days” would change the Pioneer Monument’s historic character.

Kate Patterson, director of communications for the Arts Commission, said it intends to request a rehearing, which it must do within 10 days. But the agency faces a high bar: The Board of Appeals’ rules specify that rehearing requests are granted only when new facts or circumstances can be presented.

Full story at SF Chronicle.

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